The successful design of a launch vehicle requires the careful characterization of the various loads the structure will experience over its lifetime. Many of the most demanding load environments occur during the launch/ascent phase of a mission, typically defined as the point of engine start through engine cut off. One of the critical events during the launch phase is the liftoff event. This event imparts high loads on the vehicle due to transient events such as thrust build-up and vehicle release. This paper describes the theory and procedures used to calculate structural loads due to the liftoff event for the Lockheed-Martin X33 technology demonstrator vehicle. These procedures were developed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and verified previously on other advanced launch system concepts and the Space Shuttle system.